So you’ve chosen to adopt a dog and join the pet family, which is fantastic!
We’re so glad that you’ve found your way here to OurPets HQ, the internet headquarters for the most comprehensive and in-depth pet care guides. This one is designed for dogs and is appropriate for anybody thinking about adopting one.
If you’re new to the world of dogs, there are many things that you need to consider before actually adopting one. In this article, I have shared the most basic and essential guide on how to take care of your new furry friend.
I have also included some tips on what to do when bringing a new dog home, what type of food and diet is best, common health problems and how to prevent them, the benefits of exercise for dogs, and how to groom your dog properly depending on their coat type.
I’ve included links to additional resources on the site that go into greater detail about any one subject area, such as protein in dog food.
What is a dog?
Dogs are the most popular pet in the world and have been by our side for centuries. They are descendants of wolves but have been bred to be domestic companions. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, with over 340 different breeds in the world and the American Kennel Club recognizes 199.
Some 15 to 30k years ago, dogs were domesticated in Asia from a now-extinct species called Canis lupus which is a direct ancestor of the grey wolf. They were then brought to Europe where they spread throughout the continent.
The image below shows the divergence of modern domestic dogs from the original Taimyr wolf. According to a 2015 study, the most recent genomic divergence of dogs from wolves happened some 15,000 years ago.
Domestication of dogs is known to have happed in three main regions; China, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. You have those regions to thank for your now docile pet which emerged from interbreeding with wild wolves.
Labrador Retriever, a breed with UK origins is the most popular dog breed in the world. Below is the image of the Labrador Retriever;
One of the main reasons for Labrador’s popularity is that they make great family pets. They are gentle, loving, and loyal to their owners. They are also one of the easiest breeds to train.
I’ll be posting another article on all the most popular dog breeds by ranking.
Dogs have been bred for various purposes such as hunting, herding, guarding, and sled pulling. Some dogs like the Afghan Hound were originally bred for royalty and today they are known as the “king of hounds”.
Below is an image of the Afghan Hound;
There could be many reasons for you to get a pet. Including for Royalty purposes…yeah, why not?
Why get a dog as a pet in the first place?
49% of American households have a pet and according to ASPCA, 6.5 million pets are adopted every year. In another survey by the American Pet Products Association, there are about 89.7 million dogs in the US (2018-19).
Below is a helpful chart with stats on pet and dog ownership.
The charts above should give you an idea that you are not alone in the dog search and adoption journey.
The reasons to get a pet are as numerous as the pets themselves, but here are some of the most commonly mentioned benefits:
- Dogs provide companionship and love. They can be great for your mental health, providing emotional support in times of need.
- Dogs can help to teach responsibility, especially to children. Caring for another living creature instills empathy and a sense of duty.
- Dogs need exercise, which means you probably will too. Walking or running with your dog can improve your fitness levels and help you to lose weight.
- Dogs offer protection. They can serve as loyal and protective companions, deterring burglars and strangers from entering your home.
- Dogs can provide assistance. Some dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to help people with disabilities, such as guide dogs for the blind.
- Dogs can be great fun! They offer endless hours of entertainment and amusement, especially when playing fetch or learning new tricks.
- Comfort: There is documented evidence that in the company of a dog or petting a dog can lower blood pressure and improve your mood. Oxytocin gets released in humans and dogs when they are together, which is the bonding chemical between mother and child. Dogs are also known to help people who suffer from depression or anxiety, as their presence can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.
- Dog Save Lifes: Earlier this year, a dog led police to a car crash and the owner got the medical help he needed in time. This is an example of dogs being there for you when you need that help. Read the story published by USA Today here and here is an article with 10 stories of dogs saving humans.
Below is another short 2-mins video of a ‘rejected’ dog that saved the life of his new owner.
Drawbacks of owning a dog as a pet:
While the benefits of owning a dog are plentiful, there are some drawbacks that you should be aware of as well. These include:
- Cost – Dogs can be expensive to care for, particularly if they need regular vet visits or specialist food and medication. In the cost section below, you’ll see that it may cost you upwards of $2,000 to $3,000 in the first year to own a dog as a pet. This may vary depending on the breed, the location and your dog’s health condition.
- Time commitment – There is a lot of work involved in owning a dog, including feeding, walking, exercising, and grooming. Expect to spend 30 mins to an hour a day – at the minimum as dogs need at least 30 minutes of walking a day and you may have to feed as well. If you live by yourself, it may also be difficult to travel if you can’t get someone to look after your pet when you are away.
- Messes – Dogs can make messes around the house, whether it’s chewing up your furniture or having accidents indoors.
- Allergies – Some people are allergic to dogs, which can cause symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny nose.
What type of dog should you get?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, such as your lifestyle, whether you have other pets, how much space you have in your home, and whether you have young children. Some people also prefer certain breeds of dogs based on their appearance or personality.
If you live in an apartment or condo, for example, a large breed dog may not be the best choice, as these dogs typically require more space and exercise. Smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas or terriers, maybe a better option.
If you have young children or other pets in your home, make sure to choose a dog that is both children- and pet-friendly. Some breeds are known for being especially territorial or protective, which may put children or other pets at risk.
Other things to consider include cost, daily care requirements, and grooming needs. Researching different breeds can help you to make an informed decision about which dog is best for you. Ultimately, it’s important to choose a dog that fits your lifestyle and will bring you joy and happiness for years to come.
As you do your research on the dog to get, you should also be trying to understand dogs’ personalities and what they love. How will you be a good partner and companion to your dog?
The video below describes 15 things dogs love the most;
15 things to know to effectively adopt and care for a dog
Step 1: Deciding to adopt a dog;
So, when you decide to get a dog, think about the personality of the dog you want to have as a pet. Watch different dogs doing different activities on Youtube.
You can also visit your friends who may have dogs and get to know what we call ‘dog-love’. Once you fall in love with a dog as a potential long-term partner, it will be easier to settle on a breed to adopt.
You can also visit dog rescue centers or a dog breeding center and ask to spend some time with a few dogs. This is important as you need to be sure that it’s the right dog for you.
Celia, one of our family friends decided on a dog she wanted to adopt after one of the dogs in a rescue center came and sat on her lap. It also helped that the dog didn’t bark a lot so the embrace she received from the dog and the fact that it didn’t bark excessively like other dogs really made it easy for her to decide.
I hope I am not getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to deciding the dog to get.
So, after aggressively gathering information from other pet owners and from online resources such as Youtube, you can then start deciding the breed. It is very important for you to research the breeds as different breeds have different needs – from their diet, exercise to grooming. For instance, some dogs require more grooming than others; some may be better for first-time dog owners while some may not.
As a first-time owner, I recommend getting a hypoallergenic breed such as the Bichon Frise, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, or Poodle. These breeds are easier to take care of in terms of grooming as they do not require professional grooming services as often.
But one of the biggest decisions is to decide on the size of the dog.
#1.1: Deciding on the size and age of the dog
- Weight: Up to 22 pounds
- Height: Up to 10 inches
- Sub-categories of small dogs: ‘toy’ or ‘teacup’
Small dogs are great pets and perfect if you plan on having them chilling with you on the couch. They are quite easy to handle and can fit well if you have small children. Most are known to be lap warmers but not all of them.
While they are able to fit well in small spaces such as condos or apartments, some small breeds such as Dachshunds also love to be able to run around in a spacious yard or in the country. , Same with Yorkshire Terrier which loves to be around people and is very cuddly. Whenever we have visitors, our Terrier always goes and sits on their laps or stands next to them until they pet her. She’s also not yappy like most small dogs are known to be.
Pros of Small dogs as pets;
- they are easier to handle,
- can be trained more easily compared to large dogs,
- they are less expensive when it comes to food and medical care,
- they can live in smaller spaces such as apartments.
Cons of small dogs;
- they have a shorter lifespan than large breeds,
- they may be yappier or bark more often than larger breeds,
- some small breeds may be more high-strung than larger breeds.
If you are considering a small-breed dog, check out AKC’s list of smallest dog breeds here.
Some of the most popular small dog breeds we have profiles here include;
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Toy Poodle
- Shih Tzu
Medium to larger dogs;
- Weight: 20 to 60 pounds
- Height: 8 to 27 inches
Medium-size dogs are also great options as pets. If you plan on doing some hectic and involving activities such as jogging, medium-size dogs are more suited compared to smaller dogs. They also eat considerably less than larger-breed dogs;
- they can still be handled by first-time owners,
- they are less expensive when it comes to food and medical care,
- they can live in smaller spaces such as apartments.
Cons of having a medium-size dog;
- they may require more exercise than small breeds,
- Prolonged exercise may be a bit taxing on their joints, especially if they are pudgy.
Some of the most popular medium-size dog breeds include;
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Cocker Spaniel
- Weight: 51 to 90 pounds with giant breeds weighing up to 100 pounds
- Height: Up to 44 inches
Large-breed dogs are known to be more intelligent and as easy to train and can make great pets. Some of the most intelligent dog breeds such as Border Collie, German Shepherd, and Labrador Retriever are all large-breed dogs. Border Collie is the smartest dog with an IQ equivalent to babies aged 2 to 2.5 years. They can learn up to 1000 commands.
Their highly developed sense of smell and their ability to learn commands make them very useful for several tasks. They can be used as;
- Tracking dogs to find missing persons,
- Hearing dogs – to look after cattle and sheep
- Retrieve balls in a golf club
Border Collie, for example, can learn commands 5 times faster than an average dog.
Pros of large dogs;
- they are less likely to bark excessively,
- they can serve as loyal protectors,
- most large breeds are gentle giants
- known to be very intelligent and can learn several commands
Cons of large dogs;
- they require more food and medical care which can be expensive,
- they need more space to run around,
- Some may be more difficult to train.
- Weight: Over 90 pounds
- Height: Over 40 inches
Giant-breed dogs such as Great Dane, Mastiff, Rottweiler, and Saint Bernard are some of the most popular dogs in the world. Some people love them for their impressive size while others find them to be too big and difficult to handle. Some of the tallest dog breeds such as Great Dane have a height of up to 44 inches – matching the height of most 4 and 5-year-old babies. If you have a toddler, giant-breed dogs will be taller than them. And their height ranges from 70 to 120 pounds.
Are giant-breeds good dogs as pets?
Large-breed dogs make great pets as they are equally intelligent as their medium-sized peers. They are typically intelligent and easy to train, making them ideal pets for first-time dog owners. They are often very loyal and affectionate, and they can be great companions for children and adults alike.
Pros of giant-breed dogs;
- Very loyal
- It may take longer to learn commands, but in the end, they would easily learn and retain them
- Giant-breed dogs do not bark excessively
- They can serve as loyal protectors
- Relatively easier to train compared to small-breed dogs.
Cons of giant breeds;
- The cost of food and medical care may be quite expensive.
- They eat more and is expensive to feed them. In a survey of more than 770 giant-breed dog owners, they spent about $2,400 per year feeding them.
- It may be difficult to handle giant-breed dogs if you are smaller in size and weight.
- Giant-breed dogs do require large spaces to run around freely, as they can easily become pudgy when left alone for long periods at a time.
Below is a video of 11 biggest dogs in the world;
Puppies vs adult dogs;
Should you get a puppy or an adult dog?
A puppy is any young dog that’s less than 12 months in age. Puppies are cute and cuddly and can be really fun having them around. However, you should know that their personality and behaviors will be shaped by how well you train them in that first year. If you think you’ll manage to give some good quality training, you can get a puppy.
If you do not train them well and offer enough exercise your puppy can turn out to be an absolute disaster.
In general, I would not recommend getting a puppy that’s less than 3 months in age. Some dog owners try to get puppies of 7 to 12 weeks and they usually regret it. One friend told me that he was told by some breeder to adopt the puppy as soon as she weaned and started eating solid food. This was the wrong piece of advice.
After weaning, dogs get trained by their mothers on how to control their mouths – bite inhibition. In the first three months, their eyesight is also weak and you’ll find them wandering off at times. Just being babies. However, they can start learning at this age.
The best age to adopt a puppy is when they are 8-10 weeks old because they will be fully weaned by this time. They may not be cute and cuddly anymore but they will be much more reliable and easy to handle compared to puppies that are younger than 2-3 months of age. Getting a dog under 12 months in age can help you train them better
If you want a dog for protection and exercise purposes and not for companionship then an old dog would be ideal for you.
Adult dogs can already understand commands and very few of them will display any undesirable behaviors that normal puppies often do such as biting, barking excessively, or being overly aggressive. Some like Dachshunds are known for their barking.
The downside with getting an old dog is that you’ll never really know their true personality until after a few weeks of interacting with them and observing their behaviors.
If you are looking for a dog to keep in your home as a pet then it’s best if you get a puppy that’s 8 to 10 weeks old. If you want a dog for protection, then an adult dog would be ideal.
Pros of puppies;
- they are very cute,
- you can mold them into the dog you want them to be through training,
- they have a lot of energy and are fun to play with.
Cons of puppies;
- they require more time and patience to potty train,
- they may chew on things and create a lot of mess,
- they may be more work than adult dogs that are already trained.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-care-for dog pet, I would recommend adopting an adult dog instead of getting a puppy. Adult dogs have already been potty trained, know the basic commands, and generally require less time and attention than puppies.
However, if you’re looking for a loyal companion and have the time to put into training your new dog, then a puppy may be the better choice for you. Just keep in mind that it will take some effort and commitment to properly train your dog, but in the end, it’s worth it for all of the joy they will bring into your life.
Male or female dog as a pet?
There isn’t really a big difference between getting a male or a female dog. But if you do have a preference, here are some things that you might want to take into consideration.
Males are often easy to train compared to females. They are less likely to display any signs of aggression, often displaying a good temperament throughout their lifetime.
In some cases, however, males can be more stubborn and disobey commands sometimes as they get older. Males, on the other hand, can be more difficult to potty train and they often go into heat every 6-8 months. This can be really messy if you do not want your female dog to get pregnant.
Females tend to be slightly more adept at learning commands. I would recommend getting a male dog if you are looking for an obedient and easy-to-train companion. If you want a dog that’s easy to potty train, then go for a female.
#2. Deciding on the breed
As you can see, there are pros and cons for both sides of the spectrum. In general, I strongly recommend small breeds to first-time dog owners as they are easier to handle especially if you do not have much time on your hands.
Breeds can generally be divided into;
- Purebreed: These are breeds that have been developed to be bred with the same family over centuries and have very distinct physical characteristics and personalities. They have purebred pedigrees from their parents and grandparents, which can provide you – an amateur breeder – some help in assessing if your dog is healthy or not.
- Crossbreed: These dogs are a cross between two purebred dogs. The result is a crossbreed with a unique set of traits from both parents’ lineages. Crossbreeding has recently become popular as these mutts can have some very cool and useful characteristics!
- There are also pedigree mixes, which are a combination of an established breed and lesser-known or rare breeds; these are also called designer dogs.
If you decide to get a purebred, your next step is to find a reputable breeder who can help you get the dog of your dreams! When looking for a breeder, make sure you go with a registered breeder with a good reputation – read reviews of what other pet owners and vets have said about the breeder. I recommend visiting local shelters and dog adoption centers – you can find great dogs that way too! A reputable breeder may also be able to give you some background on the parents of your potential fur baby.
Other tips on selecting a breed;
When choosing a breed, it is important to consider your lifestyle and what type of personality would fit well into your family.
For example, if you have young kids, it may be a good idea to get a larger breed that is gentler and more tolerant of playful kids.
On the other hand, if you lead an active lifestyle and want a dog that can go hiking or jogging with you, then a smaller breed like a Jack Russell Terrier may be better suited.
There are a variety of online resources such as AKC’s website that can help you choose the right breed for you.
Below is a helpful video showing all 198 dog breeds recognized by AKC.
Factor to consider on the breed you’ll pick.
AKC recognizes 199 different breeds of dogs, each with their own unique set of characteristics. When choosing a breed, it is important to consider factors such as size, energy level, grooming needs, and whether they will do well in an apartment or home with a yard.
- Small: Less than 20 pounds
- Medium: 21-50 pounds
- Large: 51 to 90 pounds
- Giant: Over 90 pounds
-Sighthound breeds, such as greyhounds and whippets, are very high energy and will require daily exercise to keep them from getting bored.
-Herding breeds, like border collies, tend to have medium energy levels and can thrive with a moderate amount of exercise each day.
-Working breeds, including boxers and bulldogs, have lower energy levels and may be content with a daily walk.
-Dogs with long coats, such as shih tzus and bichon frises, will need to be brushed daily to prevent matting and tangles.
-Dogs with short coats, such as jack russells and beagles, only need to be brushed weekly.
-Dogs with double coats, such as huskies and golden retrievers, will shed heavily twice a year and will need daily brushing during those times.
-Some dog breeds shed very little, while others shed heavily. If you have allergies, or simply do not like vacuuming up dog hair, it is important to choose a breed that does not shed much.
Some dog breeds that shed very little are poodles, bichons frises, and schnauzers.
Some dog breeds that shed heavily are golden retrievers, labradors, and huskies.
All dogs need some basic obedience training, such as learning to sit, stay, lie down, and come when called.
Some dog breeds are easier to train than others.
Some of the easiest dog breeds to train are poodles, golden retrievers, and labradors.
Some of the more difficult dog breeds to train are sighthounds, such as greyhounds, and herding breeds like border collies.
Whether you choose to train your dog on your own or hire a professional trainer, it is important to start training them as early as possible to set them up for success.
Some basic commands that all dogs should know include “sit,” “stay,” “lie down,” and “come.”
- Some breeds are naturally energetic and playful, making them better suited for families with young children.
- Other breeds may be calmer and more reserved, making them better suited for older adults or single people living in apartments.
Before choosing a dog breed, it is important to consider your own lifestyle and the type of environment you live in.
Some popular dog breeds that are well-suited for families with young children include golden retrievers, labradors, and beagles.
Popular dog breeds that are best suited for adults or senior citizens include Shih Tzus, Poodles, and Bichons Frises.
Some of the popular breeds in the US are;
- German Shepherd(large): Gentle, intelligent, and loyal dogs with a strong guarding instinct. They do best in homes with large yards or active families and require regular exercise.
- Golden Retriever (large): Friendly, intelligent, and easy to train, these high energy dogs are great for homes with children or families that enjoy spending time outdoors.
- Poodle(small, medium,large): One of the most popular dog breeds, poodles come in three sizes and are known for their low-shedding coats which make them a good choice for those with allergies. Poodles require regular grooming and exercise.
- Labrador Retriever (large): Another popular breed, labradors are known for their friendly, loyal personalities and high energy levels. They do well in homes with active families and require regular exercise.
Purebreed vs mix-breed dogs;
- Purebred dogs are bred according to a certain standard and can be traced back to the same breed lineage. This makes them ideal for those looking for specific physical characteristics or behavioral traits.
- Mix-breed dogs are a mix of two or more different breeds and often have a more diverse gene pool, making them healthier and less prone to genetic diseases.
- Mix-breed dogs are often less expensive than purebred dogs and can be just as loving and loyal.
- Mix-breed dogs are less susceptible to hereditary diseases.
Dog DNA and Breed Identification;
A dog’s DNA can be used to identify its breed or breeds. This is useful for those looking to adopt a mixed-breed dog and want to know what breeds make up its ancestry.
There are many companies that offer dog DNA testing kits. The most popular ones are Wisdom Panel and Embark and costs around $100 to get a dog DNA’s tested to find their exact breed type, their relatives, their health, and their traits tests.
To test your dog’s DNA, you will need to collect a sample of their saliva using a cotton swab. Once you have collected the sample, you will need to register the kit online and send it back to the company.
Within 2-3 weeks, you will receive your results which will include a breakdown of your dog’s ancestry by percentage.
#3. Essential Items to get & Complete the Adoption Process
Once you have decided on the breed and size of your dog, you may need to invest in some other supplies for your dog. One important consideration is the type of bed or house that will be most comfortable for your pet.
The majority of dogs prefer soft beds that resemble a nest-like or cave-like design. High-quality orthopedic beds with memory foam are a great choice for dogs who suffer from arthritis or other joint issues.
For larger breeds, you may need to look into purchasing a special dog house that can provide thermal insulation during the colder months and protect your pet from rain and snowstorms.
Other accessories you may need to consider include leashes, collars, feeding and water bowls, toys, grooming equipment (such as brushes and shampoo), treats, flea collars/sprays, etc.
When purchasing any of these items from a pet store or online retailer, make sure you are getting high-quality products that are both safe for your dog and long-lasting. Consider reading reviews from other pet owners before making any final decisions.
Once you have all the necessary supplies for your new pet, you are ready to begin the complete the adoption process and bring your buddy home.
Most shelters and rescue centers offer a variety of different methods to help you adopt a dog, from first-come, first-served to online applications that allow you to view available dogs and request specific breeds or sizes.
Before bringing your new fur baby home, it is important to make sure that you are prepared for the transition and have everything set up for your new pet.
Some basic tips include ensuring that your dog has a cozy bed or house to sleep in and plenty of food and water bowls for eating and drinking. You should also consider purchasing some toys, grooming supplies, and a leash/collar before bringing your pet home.
What you absolutely need before bringing your pet home;
First, make sure that your home is safe for a pet. Remove any poisonous plants, secure any loose wires or cords, and put away any small objects that your dog could choke on.
Next, create a designated space for your dog, such as a bed or crate, in a quiet area of your home. This will be their safe space where they can go to relax and feel comfortable.
You should also puppy-proof your yard by checking the fence for holes or gaps and removing any potential hazards, such as ant traps or plant fertilizers.
Setting up a dog house:
You need a dog house that measures at least 4 feet by 6 feet, a doghouse door flap, and a ramp if your dog is large or has mobility issues. If you have some carpentry skills you can use, you can build a dog house from scratch using these measurements.
If not, there are plenty of great premade options available online and in pet stores. Just make sure to measure your dog before purchasing any supplies to ensure a comfortable fit.
When setting up the dog house, place it in a location that is sheltered from the wind, rain, and snow. You should also be sure to provide proper insulation if the temperature drops below freezing.
You should plan to spend up to $200 on a dog house, depending on the size and materials used. Additional accessories like a doghouse door flap or ramp may add to the total cost.
If you live in an apartment, you will also need to purchase a pet gate to keep your dog contained in a certain area of your home.
Crate or a dog bed?
There is no one right answer when it comes to choosing a bed or crate for your dog. Some dogs prefer the security of sleeping in a crate, while other dogs may only be comfortable in a soft bed that closely resembles a nest.
This will depend largely on the size and personality of your dog, so you may have to try out a few different options before finding the perfect fit.
The image below has details of dog crate sizing;
In general, it is best to provide both a bed and a crate for your dog so they have the option to sleep in either one depending on their mood.
A dog bed or crate will cost you $30 to $200 depending on the features, material/fabric and support/comfort.
Finally, make sure you have plenty of food, water, toys, and grooming supplies on hand before bringing your new pet home. This will help them feel more comfortable as they get used to their new surroundings.
Last but not least, make sure you have plenty of patience and love to give to your new furry friend! Dogs require a lot of care and attention, but the rewards are more than worth it.
An adoption document you’ll need to fill is similar to the one below;
A typical dog vaccination card looks like the one below;
#4. Understanding Dog Diet;
You also need to learn about what goes into a dog’s diet as different breeds have different nutritional requirements. For instance, large-breed dogs need more calcium to grow properly and avoid joint problems later in life while smaller breeds may be more prone to dental problems so they need foods that clean their teeth.
A healthy diet is an important part of keeping your dog happy and healthy.
AAFCO, an NGO providing guidance and advisory on pets recommend against formulating recipes at home by mixing different ingredients. It is impossible to get the required nutritional content from homemade food. The current standards followed by dog food manufacturers were formulated by AAFCO and was revised in 2014.
To clarify, you’ll need to rely on commercial dog food brands.
Fortunately, most commercial dog foods are complete and balanced, meaning they contain all the nutrients your dog needs. I recommend and review dog food that meets AAFCO and WSAVA standards. I have a bias toward those recipes that meet the following requirements;
- -Have meat as the first ingredient, preferably poultry, lamb, beef
- -Be free of byproducts
- -Be free of fillers such as corn, wheat or soy
- -Have no artificial flavors or colors
The food you choose for your dog should also be based on their life stage and AAFCO’s recommendation follows this classification.
You can also supplement your dog’s diet with homemade food, but it is important to consult with your vet first to make sure you are providing the right nutrients.
There are a few things to keep in mind when feeding your dog:
– Dogs need a diet that is high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates.
– Avoid giving your dog human foods as many are not appropriate or healthy for dogs.
– Avoid giving your dog table scraps, especially fatty foods like fried foods, butter, and cheese as these can lead to obesity and other health problems.
There are 5 main types of commercially available dog food;
- 1. Wet dog food (canned or packaged) – this is the most popular option due to its convenience and life-long shelf life.
- 2. Dry kibble – dry kibble has a longer shelf life compared to wet foods but there are pros and cons of each type depending on your dog’s needs; for instance, dry kibble can help with dental hygiene.
- 3. Fresh food – these are prepared meals that do not have any preservatives; they usually come in frozen pouches or trays and need to be defrosted before serving.
- 4. Dehydrated food – these are similar to fresh foods but they have been dehydrated and will last for a shorter period.
- 5. Dog treats – these are special foods that help with training, positive reinforcement, and good behavior. They can be given in small amounts as a reward for your dog’s obedience or agility training.
Dry food is the most popular type of food for dogs as it is easy to store and usually cheaper than wet food. However, some dogs may prefer wet food as it has a higher meat content and is closer to their natural diet. I recommend doing some research on the different types of food available and talking to your vet to see what they recommend for your dog.
Pros of Dry Dog Food;
- it is more affordable than wet food,
- it is easy to store,
- most dogs like the taste of dry food.
Cons of Dry Dog Food;
- it has a lower meat content than wet food,
- some dogs may not be as interested in eating it.
Read our main guides below on dry dog food;
- How much dry dog food to feed your dog
- Dry dog food calories per cup
- How to make dry dog food more appealing
- Does dry dog food go bad?
- How to store dry dog food
Pros of Wet Dog Food;
- it is more natural for your dog’s diet,
- it contains a higher meat content,
- it may be better for dental health.
Cons of Wet Dog Food;
- it has to be refrigerated or stored in cold areas,
- it is generally more expensive than dry food.
Check out our guides below on wet food for dogs;
- Dry vs wet dog food
- Best dog wet food for small-breed dogs
- Mixing dry and wet food
- Best dog food for sensitive stomach
Some other tips on feeding;
– offer frequent meals (3-4 times a day),
– avoid giving your dog table scraps, especially in large amounts,
– make sure you get good quality food that meets AAFCO guidelines to ensure that it has all the necessary nutrients for your dog.
Dog Food recalls:
You should also be on the lookout for dog food recalls. FDA has a dedicated page on dog food recalls and we also update all pet food recalls here at OurPets HQ.
Snapshot Credit: FDA
If you have already purchased a dog food brand that has been recalled, stop feeding it to your dog immediately.
Chart Credit: Truth About Pet Food
In a study of dog food recalls from 2009 to 2018, 64.4% were linked to Salmonella. This is a bacteria that cause serious illness in dogs, including vomiting and diarrhea that can be bloody. They are mostly found on raw dog food and several dog treats. In fact, the study revealed that 93.8% of all raw food recalls were because of the presence of Salmonella.
Other reasons for recalls include;
- -Preservatives and other additives that are found in lower quality foods
- -Contamination with harmful chemicals or toxins
- -Lack of essential nutrients in the food, such as protein or vitamin D
Aside from recalls, I also suggest you avoid dog kibble with the ingredients listed below as there is documented evidence that they are harmful to dogs;
- – BHA/BHT – preservatives that have been linked to cancer in rats and dogs.
- -Ethoxyquin – a preservative that has been linked to liver damage and cancer in dogs.
- – Food coloring – these are added to dog food to make it more visually appealing but they have no nutritional value and can be harmful to your dog’s health.
- -Artificial sweeteners – these are added to dog food to make it more palatable but they can be toxic to dogs.
If you are using dry dog food, we have a guide on how you can make them more appealing here.
#5. Understanding Cost:
Another important factor to consider is the cost of owning a dog.
The initial cost of buying a puppy can range from $500 to $2000 depending on the breed, where you buy it from, and whether you get health insurance.
In addition to the purchase price, there are also ongoing costs such as food, toys, accessories, vet bills, training, and boarding.
Plan to budget at least $500-$1000 per year for your dog’s expenses.
It is also important to factor in the time and effort involved in caring for a dog as well. Many people underestimate the amount of time it takes to walk, play with, groom, train, and socialize their dogs.
If you are not able to commit the time and effort required to care for a dog, then it is best to wait until you are in a position to do so.
The cost of dog ownership can vary widely, depending on the size and breed of your dog, as well as your lifestyle and geographic location.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the first-year cost of owning a small dog is $1,314 on average, while the first-year cost of owning a medium-sized dog is $1,580, and large dogs going for up to $1,843.
Rover, another site that did an estimate of the first-year cost found it to be around $2858 as it factored in additional expenses such as dog training, dog sitting, dog grooming, and teeth cleaning.
The cost of food is one of the biggest expenses for dog owners, with the ASPCA estimating that small dogs need an average of $235 per year and medium-sized dogs need an average of $370 per year.
The video below breaks down all the dog expenses in 5 minutes;
Other costs to consider include vet bills, dog insurance, license and registration fees, obedience training, and boarding or doggy daycare.
The best way to estimate the cost of owning a dog is to talk to other dog owners in your area and get an idea of what they spend on their pets.
You can also speak to your vet about the average cost of dog ownership in your area.
As mentioned above, some dog breeds cost higher to maintain. The table below shows breeds that cost $2000 to those costing $9,000 annually to maintain.
Credit: Vanaheim Rottweilers.
Below is a fair estimate by ASPA on what you can expect to pay in the first year and the subsequent annual cost;
The table below shows how you’ll spend about $500 having a dog compared to a cat annually with cats costing about $900/y and dogs costig about $1400/y.
According to Julie Meadows of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, you can reduce your healthcare cost by picking a mix-breed from parents with limited health issues. Julie was quoted by USA Today here. Mixed-breed dogs are also often cheaper to insure than purebred dogs.
Regardless of these high costs, the joy and companionship you’ll get from your new doggie friend is priceless. If you get a rescue dog, you may feel even more of a sense of satisfaction, knowing you’ve given an abandoned animal a second chance at life.
I hope your budget won’t prevent you from getting your doggie.
#6. Understanding Your Dog’s Health:
One of the most important aspects of dog care is ensuring that your dog stays healthy and that will only happen if you are able to care well and recognize when your dog is unwell.
Regular veterinary checkups are crucial for identifying and treating any health problems early on, especially since many diseases in dogs can be easily treated if caught early enough. For these health visits, you’ll need to get health insurance for your dog.
Some common health issues to be aware of include;
- Obesity: Dogs can get obese if you do not give them enough exercise or if their diet is too high in calories. This can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes, so it’s important to keep your dog at a healthy weight.
- Allergies: Dogs can get allergies to many different things, including food, pollen, grasses, fleas, and dust mites. If your dog is showing signs of allergies, consult your vet to determine the cause and try to avoid these allergens as much as possible.
- Ear infections: Dogs’ ears can be prone to infection due to moisture buildup or because they have long floppy ears that are more difficult for them to keep clean. If your dog is showing signs of an ear infection, such as shaking their head frequently or pawing at their ears, consult a vet to determine the best treatment options.
- Heartworm: a serious but preventable disease caused by parasites transmitted through mosquitoes.
- Cancer: Many types of cancer can affect dogs, such as bone tumors and skin tumors.
- Arthritis/joint pains: This is a common problem in older dogs, particularly large breeds. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, but there are various treatments that can help to ease your dog’s pain and improve their quality of life.
- Diabetes: diabetes is common in some breeds, such as Pood allergies, heart disease,
- Behavior Issues: Many dogs have behavioral issues that can be caused by a wide range of factors, including bad training and genetics. If you are having problems with your dog’s behavior, it is best to consult a professional trainer or behaviorist to help you determine the cause and work on solutions.
- Sensitive stomach: Some dogs have sensitive stomachs that can be easily upset. If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea frequently, it is best to consult your vet to determine the cause and find a food that agrees with them.
How will you know if your dog is sick?
There are a few signs that you should look for that may indicate that your dog is sick.
- Lethargy: If your dog is suddenly less active than usual, it may be a sign that something is wrong.
- Loss of appetite: A decrease in appetite can be a sign of many different health problems, so it is important to monitor your dog’s eating habits closely.
- Chronic diarrhea or vomiting: Frequent stomach upset can be a sign of many different health problems, including allergies and infections. If you notice changes in your dog’s stool or vomiting frequently, consult your vet to determine the cause and find a treatment.
- Skin problems: If your dog is scratching or licking excessively, they may have an allergy or skin infection that needs to be treated.
- Coughing, wheezing and sneezing: These are common symptoms of many respiratory tract infections and can indicate a potentially serious condition such as pneumonia. If your dog is displaying these symptoms, it is important to consult a vet and get them the treatment they need.
As a dog owner, it is important to be proactive in your dog’s health care. Regular veterinary checkups are crucial for identifying any potential health issues early on, so make sure you schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms of illness in your dog.
Additionally, taking steps to keep your dog at a healthy weight and providing them with a nutritious diet and plenty of regular exercises can help to prevent many common health problems and ensure that they live a long, happy life.
#7. Consider Pet Insurance
To reduce some costs of healthcare, you can get dog health insurance which can help to cover the costs of expensive treatments or medications. Just be sure to do your research and compare different policies and providers so that you choose one that is right for you and your dog. You can expect to pay around $10/m for a typical dog in the US but there are several factors that impact this cost.
There are several pet health insurance companies in the US but please plan to schedule a call to go through all the details with the insurance sales rep before committing to a plan. Some plans limit coverage based on the age of your dog, pre-existing conditions, and certain breeds may not be covered.
Some common coverage options that are typically included in dog health insurance plans are;
- Preventative care: This can cover things like routine vaccinations, check-ups and tests recommended by your vet.
- Accidents: If your dog has an accident, such as getting hit by a car or injuring themselves, this can help to cover the costs of emergency treatment. It can also include diagnostic tools such as X-rays, ultrasounds and other required diagnostic tests.
- Surgery: If your dog needs surgery for an injury or condition, this may be covered under your insurance plan. It may also include all services including X-ray, ultra-sounds, MRI, among others.
- Prescription medications: Many dogs require regular medication for certain conditions and illnesses. This can help to cover the costs of those medications.
Below are what most pet insurance doesn’t cover;
- Pre-existing condition: If your dog is already sick or injured before the insurance plan starts, it may not be covered. The Obama Care Act did not include dogs as the signature insurance reform in the Obama Care is the requirement for insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions.
- Cosmetic procedures: If you want to get your dog’s ears cropped or surgery for tail docking, this may not be covered.
- Chronic conditions: Chronic conditions such as diabetes and allergies are generally not included in most plans.
- Routine and wellness check: Most routine and wellness care, such as vaccinations, spaying and neutering, are not covered under health insurance plans.
Below are the main dog insurers;
- ASPCA: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is one of the largest pet insurance providers in the US. They offer three different levels of coverage, with the most comprehensive option covering up to 90% of your vet bills.
- FetchPet: Fetchplan is a popular pet insurance provider that offers customizable plans so that you can choose the coverage that is right for you and your dog. They also have a wide range of discounts available, including a 5% discount if you insure more than one pet.
- Embrace: Embrace is another leading pet insurance provider that offers comprehensive coverage for accidents, illnesses, and routine care. They also have a wide range of discounts available, including a 5% discount if you insure more than one pet.
- Trupanion: Trupanion is a popular pet insurance provider that offers comprehensive coverage for accidents, illnesses, and routine care. They also have a wide range of discounts available, including a 5% discount if you insure more than one pet.
The table below shows the pet insurance premiums for different dog breeds such as Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, English Bulldog and French Bulldog which go for up to $500 by various pet insurance providers.
I recommend ASPA’s dog insurance plans which are about $250 and have no limit. They also cover pre-existing conditions after your dog is 180 days symptoms-free.
While health insurance is an important component of caring for your dog, it is also important to do all you can to keep them healthy by providing them with a nutritious diet and plenty of exercises. This can help to prevent many common health problems that dogs face, such as obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and other joint issues.
#8. Time commitment:
As a dog owner, expect to have to spend time each day providing your dog with exercise, feeding them, and ensuring that they get all the care and love they need. Depending on the breed and size of your dog, this may take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours a day.
The time you’ll need to commit depends on the level of maintenance your dog requires. Some dog breeds such as poodles and schnauzers require daily grooming, while other breeds such as labradors and golden retrievers only need a weekly brushing.
You need to make time and perhaps have reminders to make sure you are giving your pet the right food portions in time and not overfeeding or under-feeding, at times.
If you find yourself forgetting to feed your dog or feeding your dog twice, do yourself and your dog a favor by getting an alarm or keeping a written record in your notebook.
Some general guidelines to follow when feeding your dog include the following:
-Feed puppies more frequently than adults, as they need a high-energy diet that includes plenty of protein and fats to support their growth.
-Feed adults once or twice a day, depending on their activity level and size. The specific feeding instructions will vary depending on the dog food recipe your dog is having.
-Always provide fresh, clean water for your dog to drink. Get cheap bowls on Amazon and make sure you make time to refill them every day.
In terms of nutritional breakdown, AAFCO recommends the following;
- Puppies: AAFCO recommends feeding puppies recipes with at least 22% protein and 10% fat.
- Adult dogs: AAFCO recommends feeding adult dog recipes with at least 18% protein and 5% fat, to support the maintenance of healthy body conditions.
- Seniors: Dogs over the age of 7 years may benefit from recipes that are formulated for senior dogs, which usually contain a lower amount of calories to help maintain a healthy weight.
- Dogs with health conditions: Dogs with specific health conditions, such as kidney or liver disease, may need to stick to a specialized diet that is formulated for the needs of that condition.
When choosing dog food brands, it is important to look at the nutritional content and ingredients in each recipe. Some reputable brands include Purina, Nutro, Nam Nam, Blue Buffalo, and Taste of the Wild.
Dog food labels have quantities and calorie information listed, so make sure you pay attention to this information and adjust your dog’s portions as needed. Follow the feeding guide religiously and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
The nutritional value of dog food is represented in the guaranteed analysis, which must be listed on every commercial pet food label. The minimum percentages represent the minimum amount of each nutrient in the recipe, while the maximum percentages represent the maximum amount.
The guaranteed analysis is often presented on a dry-matter basis. Dry matter basis is calculated by taking the guaranteed analysis and subtracting out the moisture content, which is typically about 80-90% of the total weight.
The ingredient in the dog food bag is termed as ‘crude’ as they represent the minimum amount of each nutrient in the recipe. For example, crude protein means the amount of protein without necessarily adhering to the quality of the protein.
On the other hand, guaranteed analysis is on an ‘as-fed’ basis, which means that it includes the moisture content. For example, if a particular recipe has 18%protein on a dry-matter basis, but it is listed as 20% protein on an as-fed basis, this means that 2% of the protein content is composed of moisture.
Read our full dog food nutritional requirements and all you need to know to be successful in the ‘dog food department.’ Our aim in developing the nutritional guide is to helpful info to all dog lovers – from beginners to expert breeders and vets.
Below is an example of a dog feeding schedule;
If you have trouble remembering to feed your dog on time, or you are often not home on time to do so, you may want to consider getting an automated dog feeder.
An automated dog feeder is a device that dispenses food at set intervals. This can be either done manually or through a timer.
There are even programmable dog feeders that can detect the particular dog and dispense particular food portions you’ve programmed for that particular dog. This works best if you have more than one dog, for example.
If you have to travel, using such an automated food-dispensing machine also helps a lot.
Dogs require regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. Different breeds may have different exercise needs, so it’s important to research your dog’s specific breed before adopting or purchasing a dog. Some basic guidelines for exercise include the following:
-Dogs should be walked at least once a day, for 30 minutes to an hour.
-Dogs should have access to a yard or other safe area to run around in.
-Dogs should be played with regularly, through games such as fetch or tug-of-war.
-Dogs should be taken on regular trips to the dog park or other socialization opportunities.
-Dogs should not be exercised immediately before or after eating, as this can lead to stomach upset or bloat.
Dog food labels will also list the calories per serving, which is important to consider when trying to maintain or achieve a healthy weight for your dog.
A general rule of thumb is that puppies and active dogs require more calories than sedentary adults, while seniors may need fewer calories.
#11.License and dog vaccinations:
All dogs must be licensed in the city or town they live in. In most cases, this can be done through your local animal control office or town clerk’s office.
Dogs must also be up-to-date on their vaccinations, which are typically done by a veterinarian. Rabies vaccinations are required by law in many states, and other vaccinations may be recommended based on your dog’s lifestyle and risk of exposure to disease.
#12. Caring for a sick dog:
If your dog becomes sick or injured, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. Minor injuries such as cuts and scrapes can typically be treated at home, but more serious injuries should be seen by a veterinarian right away.
Some common illnesses that dogs may experience include:
- -Infectious diseases, such as rabies, distemper, and parvovirus: For such, vaccines are available to prevent infections.
- -Allergies: Dogs can be allergic to many things, including food, pollen, fleas, or other environmental irritants. Treatment may include medication and eliminating exposure to the allergen.
- -Urinary tract infections: These can be caused by bladder stones or infection in the kidneys or bladder. Treatment can include antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as dietary changes.
- -Parasitic diseases: These include internal parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Treatment may include deworming medications and anti-parasite shampoos or topical treatments.
- -Allergies: Dogs can be allergic to many things, including food, pollen, fleas, or other environmental irritants. Treatment may include medication and eliminating exposure to the allergen.
- -Cancer: This is a common disease in dogs, with treatment options depending on the type and stage of cancer. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
If your dog is sick or injured, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. A licensed veterinarian can help diagnose and treat your dog’s condition, and provide recommendations for care and follow-up appointments as needed. By providing proper care, you can help keep your dog happy and healthy for years to come!
#13. Fertility and puppies:
Dogs are usually able to reproduce by the time they are six to nine months old. The heat cycle, or estrus, is the time when a female dog is fertile and able to mate. This typically occurs every six to twelve months and lasts for about three weeks.
During estrus, the female’s vulva will swell and she will be more interested in mating. Most female dogs will not accept a male dog that is not their own mate, so it’s important to keep your dog away from other dogs during this time.
Once a female dog is pregnant, it typically takes about 60-65 days for her to give birth. During this time, it’s important to provide her with plenty of fresh food and water, as well as a safe place to nest.
Once the puppies are born, they will need to be fed every two to three hours. They should also be kept warm and dry, as they are unable to regulate their own body temperature at this age. Puppies typically wean from their mother’s milk at around six to eight weeks old.
At this time, they can be slowly introduced to solid food. It’s important to consult with your veterinarian before starting your puppy on a new diet, as there are many different types of dog food available and not all will be appropriate for your puppy’s stage of life.
Puppies should also be vaccinated to protect them from disease. The first set of vaccinations is typically given at six to eight weeks old, with booster shots every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old. After that, dogs should be vaccinated on an annual basis.
#14.1. Spaying and neutering:
Spaying or neutering your dog is a surgical procedure that removes the reproductive organs. Spaying refers to female dogs, while neutering refers to male dogs.
There are many benefits to spaying or neutering your dog, including:
- -It helps to control the population of homeless animals.
- -It reduces the risk of certain reproductive cancers and diseases.
- -It helps to prevent behavioral issues, such as roaming or aggression.
If you are thinking about getting your dog spayed or neutered, it’s important to consult with a licensed veterinarian first. They can help assess your dog’s health and determine if they are a good candidate for the procedure.
The average cost of spaying or neutering a dog is $200-$500, depending on the vet and the dog’s size. Most shelters and rescue organizations will include the cost of spaying or neutering in the adoption fee, so be sure to ask about this before you adopt.
#15. Dog Grooming:
You’ll need to groom your dog so they look good at a young age and equally as they get older and so they stay healthy and parasite-free. This can include brushing their coat, trimming their nails, cleaning their ears, and bathing them regularly.
The level of grooming required will depend on the coat type of your dog. You’ll need some essential grooming gear including brushes, combs, clippers, shampoo and conditioner.
Short-haired dogs only need to be brushed once or twice a week to remove dead hair and dander. Long-haired dogs, on the other hand, need to be brushed every day or two to prevent mats and tangles from forming.
Most dogs will need to have their nails trimmed every few weeks. This can be done at home with a dog nail trimmer, or you can take them to a groomer or vet.
Dogs with long ears are prone to ear infections, so it’s important to clean their ears on a regular basis. This can be done with a specially formulated dog ear cleaner, or you can use a gentle baby wipe.
Finally, most dogs need to be bathed once every few weeks. It’s important to use shampoo and conditioner that is specifically made for dogs, as human products can damage their skin. You can either do this at home with a hand-held showerhead, or you can take them to a grooming salon.
If you’re not sure how to groom your dog, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian or professional dog groomer for advice. They can help you develop a grooming routine that is suitable for your dog’s needs and coat type.
You can expect to spend about $100 per grooming session for a small dog and about $200-$300 for a larger dog. This can vary depending on where you live, where you take your dog to get groomed, and the type of products you use.
If you get off-put by dogs that shed and smell and would rather avoid those breeds, check out the video below with the list of dog breeds that don’t shed and smell.
Q: Should I really get a pet?
A: There are many benefits to having a pet, such as a companionship, exercise, and love. However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind before getting a dog or other type of pet. These include determining whether you have time and financial resources to properly care for your pet, understanding what breed or animal is best suited to your lifestyle and needs, and being prepared for the potential messes and destruction that can come along with pet ownership.
Q: Is it expensive to own a dog?
A: The cost of owning a dog varies depending on the size, age, breed, and health of the dog. Generally speaking, you can expect to spend about $1,000-$2,000 per year on food, supplies, grooming, and veterinary care. However, this cost can increase significantly if you have a larger or purebred dog or if your dog develops health issues.
Q: How often should I bathe my dog?
A: The frequency with which you need to bathe your dog will depend on their breed and activity level. Most dogs can be bathed every 1-2 weeks, although some breeds may need more frequent baths if they tend to get dirty or smelly easily. You should also take your dog’s skin type and health into consideration, as over-bathing can dry out their skin and cause other issues.
Q: What is the best type of dog food?
A: The best type of dog food depends on your individual dog’s needs. Some factors to consider include your dog’s age, activity level, health, and breed. You should also consult with your veterinarian for specific recommendations. In general, however, it is important to choose high-quality food that is made with natural, healthy ingredients and that provides all of the nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy and active.
We spent days working on this dog care guide and we hope you found it helpful.
Continue doing your research and be sure to talk to a veterinarian, other dog owners, breeders, or professional groomer for advice on how to properly care for your pet. With the right preparation, having a dog as a pet can be a fun and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
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Hi there! My name is Ben Domb, an owner of two pets and I am one of the co-founders of OurPets HQ. I have several years of experience as a pet care professional in the New England region having spent time in various roles including a stint at a veterinary hospital in Upstate New York, Syracuse area. I am a certified pet care professional and mostly spend my time researching pet nutrition and sharing my thoughts in various blogs and columns. With quarantine and COVID restrictions, I have been spending a lot of time a lot with my dogs and cat and loving it! I also run a small consulting business providing advice to parents on pet nutrition, and especially safe homemade options to try. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org